The two teachers’ unions have clashed over the independence of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) is pushing for a strong and independent teachers employer, a major drift from proposals of the rival Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) that wants TSC placed under control of Ministry of Education.
Kuppet however wants the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) abolished, saying it is an impediment to fair labour practices and frustrates the rights of teachers to enjoy equal benefits.
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In its presentation to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), Kuppet also wants the government to fully take charge of children’s free education through construction of classrooms, employing adequate number of teachers and protecting the interests of every child.
The union also proposes a change in the Constitution to make healthcare a human right through establishment of a government-run universal healthcare system supported by private health insurance.
The major divide between the two unions however lies in the proposal of the union to push for an independent TSC, saying those against it have vested interests that may water down education quality.
Kuppet says the Kenya Association of International Schools (KAIS) and the Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) who are behind the campaign are the largest private investors in education, yet have been slow to embrace teaching regulations.
“The two institutions have now enlisted the support of Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion, who is disgruntled with the current TSC commissioners,” said Akello Misori, the Kuppet secretary general.
Knut has called for elimination of the TSC constitutional status to allow the Ministry of Education exercise some level of control.
Knut claimed the ministry presently has no say on teachers affairs.
TSC is established under Article 237 (1) of the Constitution as a constitutional Commission with primary functions being to register, recruit and employ teachers.
TSC is also empowered to assign teachers for service in any public school or institution and promote, transfer, discipline and terminate their employment.
This constitutional role effectively gives the TSC exclusive mandate over teachers with little or no ministry interference.
Kais and KPSA want TSC’s powers checked, saying the Commission should be at the level of other semi-autonomous government agencies.
In their submissions to the BBI team, Peter Ndoro and Jane Mwangi both for Kepsa and Kais said this would be the sure way of checking duplication of roles.
Kuppet, however, says the independence of TSC must be protected and cautioned that the movers of the campaign have over the years been hesitant to embrace the professional regulations on the teaching profession enacted under the Teachers Service Commission Act (2013).
“Some of the international schools see the Kenyan regulations as inane, supposing their teachers are better trained,” said Misori.
He cited the new TSC Act that demands that all KPSA members must employ only qualified and registered teachers. “As the Commission has regularly warned, some KPSA members have not complied with the law. It is enlightening to finally see KPSA coming into the open to fight the TSC’s existence,” said Misori.
Kuppet also wants SRC abolished, saying it is a mere third party and a stranger in the process of Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“It has overly frustrated the efforts by both the unions and employers towards realisation of better terms and conditions of service for workers,” said Kuppet.
“It frustrates the rights of workers to enjoy equal benefits under the law as provided for under Article 27 of the constitution,” read the union proposals to BBI.
Kuppet says SRC’s advisory role has been interpreted in the courts to mean mandatory and binding.
“The proper and ordinary meaning of the word advice is just an opinion which is not mandatory and binding. It is our considered opinion that the existence of SRC is superfluous. It could as well be expunged from the statutes to avoid conflict,” said Kuppet.